Va.'s First Black Supreme Court Chief Justice Dies

Cause of death not revealed

Virginia's first black Supreme Court Chief Justice has died.

Leroy Hassell Sr., 55, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1989 and became the court's first black chief justice in 2003.

He was the first person elected chief justice by his colleagues.  Before that, the position automatically went to the longest-serving justice.

Hassell was from Norfolk. He graduated from the University of Virginia and Harvard Law School.

Prior to his appointment to the state Supreme Court, he became a partner at the McGuire Woods law firm.

Hassell was appointed to the Supreme Court when he was 34 years old.  He was the court's second black justice after John Charles Thomas.

A statement from the court disclosed his death but didn't include a cause or other details.

However, Virginia Lawyers Weekly reported on its website that Hassell has been sick for about a  year and a half, and had missed several weeks of work in 2009 because of an infection.

Hassell stepped down as chief justice last year but remained on the court.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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